My dad is a retired police officer. He joined the U.S. Park Police in 1959 and retired in 1984. He was also a volunteer firefighter in Silver Spring, Maryland for a time.
He was responsible for commanding a unit of police officers during the riots in Washington, D.C. in 1968. At that time, I was just a young girl. I had no idea how much danger he was in at that time. I just knew that he was a police officer and he was my dad and he was my hero! (And if there were any "box lunches" left from his shift that his officers didn't eat, he brought them home to the family for us to eat! They were actually pretty good!!) Later, as a teen/young adult, I was able to look back and realize the peril that my dad faced each day he worked in his job -- whether during the riots in 1968 or just doing his job -- walking a beat, directing traffic, patrolling the National Mall, etc. Later in his career, he became an instructor, teaching new recruits, which took him out of most of the dangerous aspects of his job.
Although he didn't do a lot of volunteer firefighting after I was born, there is one incident I recall. We had just moved into a new home in Alexandria, Virginia, and the grass was about knee-high in the yard. The builder had the grass mowed before we moved in, but it was just tossed in a pile under the back porch. After moving in, my dad went to remove the pile of grass -- and found that yellow jackets had built a nest in the pile!! He donned his turnout gear -- coat, gloves, helmet and face covering -- and proceeded to clear out all that old grass without fear of being stung!
Today, on this day before Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the real heroes in our world -- the servicemen and women, police officers and firefighters. All those folks who keep us safe so that we can go about our day-to-day activities with a sense of security. Yes, as a little girl, my dad was my hero. Today, he still is -- but so are all of those people who stand on the front lines to protect us.